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Walking in Sebald’s Footsteps

Tim Adams, writing for the Guardian Unlimited, recently did a profile of Robert Macfarlane, whose new book, The Wild Places, is about to be released in England September 3 by Granta Books. The Wild Places sounds very much like a book in the vein of W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, and indeed, as Hill reports, Macfarlane’s next book will be about Sebald.

For his next book Macfarlane is retracing the walking tours of the late WG Sebald, the melancholic German genius, who washed up not far from here in East Anglia. He frets a little – an unusual anxiety for a writer – that he is not depressed enough to catch Sebald’s mood. ‘I’m too young and cheery, that’s the trouble,’ he says, laughing.

There is quite a bit of new nature writing in Great Britain that is somewhat akin to Sebald’s writing and which doesn’t get much play in the U.S. In addition to Macfarlane, other names that I run across with increasing frequency include: Roger Deakin (who died last year), Mark Crocker, and Richard Mabey, none of whom I have read yet. (I think Deakin’s book Waterlogged: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain provided the title for the exhibition Waterlog, which I wrote about earlier.)

‘Something very interesting is happening in East Anglia at the moment,’ Macfarlane suggests. ‘This resurgence in nature writing seems to be centred here somehow. And this summer is the sort of mast year for it.’ Mabey, a friend, has suggested to him the reason for this. ‘East Anglia was the most devastated region by agribusiness and it follows that the reaction should begin here.’

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aleppo #

    I went to the Waterlog exhibition and there was no acknowledgement of the (obvious?) connection.

    I’ve just finished Deakin’s last book ‘Wildwood’ and there’s a glorious link with Sebald when Deakin visits Michael Hamburger to talk about his apple cultivation and orchard.

    August 28, 2007
  2. I guess I’d better read Deakin. He sounds more interesting each time I hear about him. Thank you for mentioning the connection with Michael Hamburger.

    August 28, 2007
  3. Sarah - Arts & Hum Librarian #

    Roger Deakin’s Archive has been given to University of East Anglia Library in Norwich, by his son Rufus Deakin. Robert Macfarlane was nominated by Roger Deakin as his Literary Executor.

    The Deakin Archive has been fully listed and includes some material relating to Sebald. It also contains over 130 notebooks which were the source material for ‘Waterlog’ and his posthumously published book ‘Wildwood’ as well as ‘Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’ which was edited by Terence Blacker and Alison Hastie.

    May 10, 2010

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